Traveling with families (especially young kids) can be a bit of an adventure (and sometimes way MORE than just an adventure). As a father of 6, traveling with large family presents an even bigger logistical challenge sometimes. If you’re traveling with kids at a hotel, you might wonder if or when it is okay to leave kids alone in a hotel room. This came up in the news recently with some fairly severe negative consequences for the parents, so I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on if and when you can leave children alone in a hotel room. This is something I have written about before as well.
(SEE ALSO: Is 11 too young to travel the world alone?)
The background of leaving kids alone in a hotel room
I came across this through a recent Live and Let’s Fly story. He shared the tragic story of ABC News executive producer Dax Tejera and his family. Dax and his wife were staying in New York with their 2 young kids (age 2 and 5 months old). They decided to go out to dinner and leave their children in the hotel room sleeping, while they monitored them on a video baby monitor. It’s not clear to me where they went out to dinner or how far that was away, but it least appears that it was off-premises (i.e. not the hotel restaurant), though I am not 100% sure on that.
Tragically, while they were out to dinner, Mr. Tejera suffered a fatal heart attack. While the couple was in an ambulance / rushing to the hospital, Mrs. Tejera called her mother and a close friend to go to the hotel and check on her kids. When her mother and/or friend got to the hotel, the hotel would not let them into the Tejera’s room. Instead, they called the police, who ultimately arrested Mrs. Tejera and charged her with two counts of “acting in a manner injurious to a child”. You can read more at this USA Today story.
When you can’t (or shouldn’t) leave children alone in a hotel room
There are a number of considerations you’ll want to think about before deciding whether to leave your children alone in a hotel room (or anywhere). Here are a few things you’ll want to think about
- Your kids age and emotional maturity
- Where you’re going and how far away you might be
- What if there is an emergency like a fire alarm – would your kids know how to handle it?
At the end of the day, whether you leave your kids alone in a hotel room or not is going to be up to you. I am not a lawyer, but I I would imagine that in most cases, if you are leaving young children alone in a hotel room, nothing will happen and it will be fine. But if something DOES happen, you are going to end up on the wrong side of the law, like what happened to the Tejeras. I have not yet seen an update on this case to know if there will be any ultimate consequences for Mrs. Tejera, though she did admit that she made a “poor decision” to leave her children alone.
What a tragic footnote to a sad and tragic time for their family.
Can you leave kids alone in a hotel room? The argument for yes
So, having said all that, is it EVER okay to leave kids alone in a hotel room or anywhere else? I think that nearly every parent in the world has left their kids alone at some point, especially young kids that are sleeping. I even parented in the “cave days” before video baby monitors and I would not judge a parent who felt okay occasionally leaving a kid at home sleeping for 5-10 minutes, like if they were in the middle of a nap and you had to pick up a different kid from school. Of course, leaving your kids in your own home is a much more controlled situation than a hotel room. As I said, my kids are older now and so I feel comfortable leaving any of them alone in most circumstances.
Matthew at Live and Let’s Fly makes the argument that everything in life carries some risk and I agree to a point. I think it’s important to weigh the possible concerns, what could go wrong, and also understand that if something DOES go wrong, you are likely going to be on the wrong side of the law.
What I personally do with kids in a hotel room
So, having said all that, I would not be comfortable doing what the Tejeras did. Even with a video baby monitor and my kids both in cribs and/or crib tents where they couldn’t get out, I would not feel comfortable having dinner or doing anything outside of the hotel. I probably would feel comfortable being down the hall or in the lobby with a baby monitor. I would consider that pretty similar to being in another room in my house. Though I wouldn’t want to be gone very long, just because a hotel room and your own home does not have the same level of security.
I do think that the hotel was correct in how they handled it. When someone comes to the front desk and claims to be a “friend” or “mother” of a hotel guest, asking to be let into their room, I think the hotel was correct in not allowing them access. Imagine the madness (and lawsuits) that would arise if a hotel intentionally let what turned out to be a random person into a guest’s room. They were probably correct in contacting the police as well, assuming that they were made aware that there were young children alone in the room.
The Bottom Line
A mother was arrested in New York City after leaving her kids in a hotel room sleeping while she and her husband had dinner nearby. When her husband had a heart attack, the wife sent her mother and/or a close friend to check on the kids, where instead the hotel called the police. While I personally would not have done what this family did, I do think that there are situations where I would be personally okay with the risks of leaving kids alone in a hotel room for a short period of time, depending on the exact situations.
What do you think? Is it EVER okay to leave kids alone in a hotel room? Give your thoughts in the comments.
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